My FiveFingers

A fan site all about Minimalist Running, Barefoot running, and Healthy Living!

Join the Community


10 Lessons Learned From Running The Super Spartan Race

by Brian Patterson » on Aug 30, 2012 8

This past Sunday I ran my first mud/obstacle race.  It was the Mid-Atlantic Super Spartan Race in Leesburg, VA.  10.4 miles, 75 obstacles, and 4 days removed, here is what I think I learned from the whole experience:

1.  Teamwork is Key

I ended up running with 3 guys I met for the first time about an hour before the race.  They were part of a team I joined with some mutual friends, but the mutual friends had a family tragedy and unfortunately had to pull out right before the event.

I connected with the rest of the team via text and they were still going to run, so I joined them.  I planned on not running the race if I wasn’t able to get ahold of them.  In hindsight, I’m so thankful that I connected with them and did the race.  Doing a race like this by yourself would be much harder because you don’t have people pushing you, encouraging you, and keeping you company.

Here is the crew I ran with, good dudes:

Greg, Mike, Matt, and Brian (me) after finishing the mud bog. I blame Matt for being 6'11" and making me look tiny.

2.  Hydration is Important

I drank large quantities of water for several days leading up to the event.  At the 4 water stations I drank at least one cup of water, but often 2.  Because of that, I felt pretty good in the hydration department throughout the whole race.  I overheard a couple of guys on the course, and a couple of my teammates, jonesing for water after we hit the last water station and still had a couple miles to go.

One of the water tables at the event.

3.  Burpees Suck

If you failed one of the larger obstacle (there were 12 of them I believe), you had to do 30 burpees.  I haven’t done a lot of burpees in my life, but I did some that day, and I’ve found them to suck.  Which leads me to…

4.  Practice for Obstacles

So you don’t have to do burpees (see #3).  Practice going across monkey bars, climb ropes, practice balance beams, and traverse walls.

Practice stuff like this.

5.  Nipple Chafing is Real

I don’t do a lot of distance running, so it never crossed my mind that this might occur to me.  I felt it around mile 5 and the pain increased from there for a few days.  I still have scabs.  In the future I’ll use body glide as I think band-aids and tape would just fall off in something like this.  No picture necessary.

6.  People Are Good

We ran into so many great people and had a ton of nice/quick conversations.  We didn’t have a negative experience with a single person despite the high density of alpha-males.  Everyone encouraged others, helped each other with obstacles, and generally just cared.  It was refreshing.

Found this gem while looking at the event photos. One of many great personalities you run into on the course.

7.  FiveFingers are Boss

No less than 6 people asked how the shoes were for the event.  The answer:  awesome!  The separate toes and grip excelled in balance obstacles, the light weight made the long distance easier, and the minimalist nature helped me move swiftly and naturally on cargo nets.  Highly recommended! (and hat tip to Under Armor for similar reasons – light weight clothing is a must)

Look at those FiveFingers! This is at the end of the event, where they hit you with jousting sticks before you cross the finish line.

8.  Enjoy the Moment

Below is a picture of the mud bog, where you crawl in mud under barbed wire. This is exactly why you do a mud race, so enjoy it, even though it is uncomfortable and painful.  Looking back, it is one of the parts I remember most, and I wish I would have enjoyed myself in the moment just a little more.

100 yards crawling/rolling through mud under barbed wire. Fun, somehow.

 9.  Time Doesn’t Matter

It is all about the journey, not the destination.  Maybe next time around I’ll push for a faster time, but probably not.

Finish Strong

10.  I’ll Do It Again

I wasn’t sure if this would be a one-and-done thing or not. If you asked me right after the race if I’d do another, I might have said “probably not”.  But a few days removed, I’m sure I’ll do another. Looking back, I have a ton of great memories, and I want to continue to add great experiences to my life.

Have you done a mud run?  What was your experience, and what did you learn?

Submitted Comments

  1. Will Lind says:

    Superb effort! And your 10 lessons encapsulate obstacle course racing beautifully!


  2. David says:

    Great job and nice write up. What Vibrams did you wear? I did the Warrior Dash 5k last year in a pair of old cross trainers which worked ok. I have signed up for 3 5k mud runs this year, including the Spartan Sprint. This time around I’ll be running in Merrell Trail Glove 2’s but am always keeping my options open. I love my Vibram Classics but they obviously won’t work for a mud run!

    Portland, OR

  3. Lydia says:

    Hi Brian,

    I read your article about eccentric squats and dealing with your patellar tendonitis. I was recently diagnosed with patellar tendonitis and I’m having a similar disheartening experience with physical therapy, so I have ordered a Flex-N-Go! It’s very encouraging to read about how you completed the Spartan Race after dealing with all that knee pain. Do you feel like you’re able to run and do activities without knee pain now? Are you still doing eccentric squats to stay ahead of the tendonitis?


  4. Brian Patterson says:

    Hi David, I wore Trek Sports, which I think are a good choice for this event. They have the thicker sole which works well on sharper and rougher surfaces.


  5. Brian Patterson says:

    Hi Lydia, I’m glad you were encouraged by this writeup. I could definitly do another mud run and I plan on it in the next year or so. I also CrossFit and take boxing classes 4-6 times a week, so I’m definitely staying active.

    I don’t do the eccentric exercises nearly as often as I used to (and as often as I should), but my knee feels great and doesn’t hold me back at all. I’m still aware of the issue there, but it isn’t sharp anymore. If I stuck to the slant board exercises, I’m sure I’d be even better off.

    Good luck and keep me posted on how it goes with the board!


  6. Brett says:

    Love my five fingers for trail running, but hated them for the Spartan. I broke my pinkie toe about a mile into the race (would not have happened in regular shoes) and they had a horrible grip in the mud. Plus, on the downhills they were moving around my feet something fierce (not fun with a broken toe). I think they would be great for a flat course, but the local Spartan here is on the side of a mountain. Enjoyed the rest of the writeup though!

  7. Tim Cheng says:

    Going to run my first Spartan on the 18th!

    Question – I love five-fingers too. Have a pair or Spyridon and EVO’s. Which did you wear for your race?

    Which of my two would you suggest using or would you suggest another type?


  8. Brian Root says:

    I’m guessing any ones that you are able to tighten with laces are best, so they don’t move around or come off your foot.
    Someone suggested socks with them in case grit gets inside shoe.
    More comfortable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.